Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
May 2003 Issue

The Name's The Same

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There are families of hand and weapon forms in the choy li fut kung-fu system that have similar names. The most popular group is the sup ji family of forms. Second to that are the mui fa (plum blossom) forms. Choy li fut also has many bagua (bot gwa) forms. How did these forms get these names? Each name has an interesting story behind it.

Sup Ji

Sup ji, the Cantonese word for the Chinese character "ten," has a character that resembles the Christian Holy Cross. Some choy li fut students thought that sup ji was named, because the forms had ten elements. Most choy li fut forms are based on ten fundamental elements, but this is not from where the name comes from. In reality, the name is derived from the footwork. These forms have footwork that goes in four different directions - 90 degrees to each other - like the pattern of the Holy Cross, therefore the name "cross pattern" or "sup ji". The beginner's hand form siu sup ji (small cross pattern) is one of the most popular starting forms. Siu means "small or little." We also have the dai sup ji (large cross pattern); the sup-ji kau-da (cross pattern continuing fighting); and the sup-ji jit-fu (cross pattern tiger blocking) hand forms. The first two-person fighting hand form is known as the sup ji fu bao chauk (tiger vs. leopard cross pattern fighting hand form). There are also many weapon forms named sup ji, because of the same cross-like footwork.

Mui Fa

The name mui fa (plum blossom) is also popular in choy li fut kung-fu forms, especially in the area of weaponry. The Republic adopted the beautiful pink plum blossom as the official symbol of China after the last Manchurian dynasty. This resilient flower blooms even in the harshest of winters, so the hard-working Chinese saw it as an apt symbol of the hidden strength in the people. One can see why this flower came to represent the mui fa forms, whose elegant beauty masks a core of lethal power.

There are only two hand forms in the plum blossom system. The siu mui fa kuen (small plum blossom hand form) is among the first beginner's forms. The advanced-level hand form is the dai mui fa kuen (large plum blossom hand form). Also called mui fa bot gwa kuen (plum blossom bagua hand form), few choy li fut lineages practice this unique form today. In the weapon forms, there are mui fa dan do (plum blossom broadsword); mui fa seung do (plum blossom double broadsword); mui fa hookwords; mui fa double chain whip; mui fa cheung; and cheung gwun (plum blossom spear form and spear/staff form). The double broadsword forms also have one named sup ji mui fa seung do (cross pattern plum blossom double broadsword) and another called the chat sing mui fa seung do (seven star plum blossom double broadsword). The highest-level single-ended staff form is named ng dim mui fa bot gwa gwun (five points plum blossom bagua staff).

Bot Gwa

The bot gwa (bagua) name is based on the Yi ling (I Ching) philosophy. Bagua represents the heaven, lake, fire, thunder, wind, water, mountain and earth. It covers the eight directions the five elements and everything in the universe. Clearly the bot gwa family of forms is named to convey how complete and well-rounded it is.

There are eight bot gwa hand forms in the choy li fut kung-fu system. These forms should not be confused with the entirely different bagua or paqua palm internal system. The shortest hand form is the siu bot gwa (small bagua). Others include the dai bot gwa (large bagua); bot gwa sum (heart of bagua); yee jong bot gwa (strong and righteous bagua); mui fa bot gwa (plum blossom bagua); hung yen bot gwa (bear man bagua); dau fu bot gwa (dueling tiger bagua); and dat ting bot gwa (Chan Hueng, choy li fut's founder, also called it dat ting).

One of the butrerfly knives forms is named bot gwa jook yip do (bagua bamboo leave swords). The single-ended staff form bot gwa long gwun (the frame of bagua staff) is the other name of the above-mentioned staff forms ng dim mui fa bot gwa gwun (five points plum blossom bagua staff).

As you can see, these choy li fut forms have names steeped in tradition, designed to inform the student of their style and effectiveness.